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6. Revolt, the Spectacle and the Game

THE REAL CREATIVITY OF THE TIMES is at the antipodes of anything officially acknowledged to be 'art.' Art has become an integral part of contemporary society and a 'new' art can only exist as a supersession of contemporary society as a whole. It can only exist as the creation of new forms of activity. As such, ['new' art] has formed an integral part of every eruption of real revolt over the last decade. All have expressed the same furious and baffled will to live, to live every possible experience to the full -- which, in the context of a society which suppresses life in all its forms, can only mean to construct experience and to construct it against the given order. To create immediate experience as purely hedonistic and experimental enjoyment of itself can be expressed by only one social form -- the game -- and it is the desire to play that all real revolt has asserted against the uniform passivity of this society of survival and the spectacle. The game is the spontaneous way everyday life enriches and develops itself; the game is the conscious form of the supersession of spectacular art and politics. It is participation, communication and self-realisation resurrected in their adequate form. It is the means and the end of total revolution.

THE REDUCTION OF ALL LIVED EXPERIENCE to the production and consumption of commodities is the hidden system by which all revolt is engendered, and the tide rising in all the highly industrialised countries can only throw itself more and more violently against the commodity-form. Moreover, this confirmation can only become increasingly embittered as the integration effected by power is revealed as more and more clearly to be the re-conversion of revolt into a spectacular commodity (q.v., the transparence of the conforming non-conformity dished up for modern youth). Life is revealed as a war between the commodity and the ludic. As a pitiless game. And there are only two ways to subordinate the commodity to the desire to play: either by destroying it, or by subverting it.


7. The Real Avant-Garde: The Game-Revolt of Delinquency, Petty Crime and the New Lumpen

THE JUVENILE DELINQUENTS -- not the pop artists -- are the true inheritors of Dada. Instinctively grasping their exclusion from the whole of social life, they have denounced its products, ridiculed, degraded and destroyed them. A smashed telephone, a burnt car, a terrorised cripple are the living denial of the 'values' in the name of which life is eliminated. Delinquent violence is a spontaneous overthrow of the abstract and contemplative role imposed on everyone, but the delinquents' inability to grasp any possibility of really changing things once and for all forces them, like the Dadaists, to remain purely nihilistic. They can neither understand nor find a coherent form for the direct participation in the reality they have discovered, for the intoxication and sense of purpose they feel, for the revolutionary values they embody. The Stockholm riots, the Hell's Angels, the riots of Mods and Rockers -- all are the assertion of the desire to play in a situation where it is totally impossible. All reveal quite clearly the relationship between pure destructivity and the desire to play: the destruction of the game can only be avenged by destruction. Destructivity is the only passionate use to which one can put everything that remains irremediably separated. It is the only game the nihilist can play; the bloodbath of the 120 Days of Sodom proletarianised along with the rest.

THE VAST ESCALATION OF PETTY CRIME -- spontaneous, everyday crime on a mass level -- marks a qualitatively new stage in contemporary class conflict: the turning point between pure destruction of the commodity and the stage of its subversion. Shoplifting, for example, beyond being a grass-roots refusal of hierarchically organised distribution, is also a spontaneous rebuttal of the use of both product and productive force. The sociologists and floorwalkers concerned -- neither group being noted for a particularly ludic attitude towards life -- have failed to spot either that people enjoy the act of stealing, or, through an even darker piece of dialectical foul-play, that people are beginning to steal because they enjoy it. Theft is, in fact, a summary overthrow of the whole structure of the spectacle; it is the subordination of the inanimate object, from whose free use we are withheld, to the living sensations it can awake when played with imaginatively within a specific situation. And the modesty of something as small as shoplifting is deceptive. A teenage girl interviewed recently remarked: "I often get this fancy that the world stands still for an hour and I go into a shop and get rigged" (Evening Standard, 16/8/66). Alive, in embryo, is our whole concept of subversion: the bestowal of a whole new use value on this useless world and against this useless world, subordinated to the sovereign pleasure of subjective creativity.

THE FORMATION OF THE NEW LUMPEN prefigures several features of an all-encompassing subversion. On the one hand, the lumpen is the sphere of complete social breakdown of apathy, negativity and nihilism -- but, at the same time, in so far as it defines itself by its refusal to work and its attempt to use its clandestine leisure in the invention of new types of free activity, [the lumpen] is fumbling, however clumsily, with the quick of the revolutionary supersession now possible. As such it could quickly become social dynamite. It only needs to realise the possibility of everyday life being transformed, objectively, for its last illusions to lose their power, e.g., the futile attempt to revitalize immediate experience subjectively, by heightening its perception with drugs, etc. The Provo movement in 1966 was the first groping attempt of this new, and still partly heterogeneous, social force to organise itself into a mass movement aimed at the qualitative transformation of everyday life. At its highest moment, [the Provo movement]'s upsurge of disruptive self-expression superseded both traditional art and traditional politics. It collapsed not through any essential irrelevance of the social forces it represented, but through their complete lack of any real political consciousness: through their blindness to their own hierarchical organisation and through their failure to grasp the full extent of the crisis of contemporary society and the staggering libertarian possibilities it conceals.


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